This history of trans people in Ottawa is of necessity incomplete. Much of our history faded into the shadows rather quickly, and uncovering it was often difficult. If I have omitted someone or something from the story it was not intentional. I welcome additions and corrections, as my aim above all is to make the file as complete as possible.
Regarding names, my policy was to list an individual’s entire name only if they were already in the public record or if I had their permission to do so. Please let me know if you find yourself in the file and wish to be identified.
There are also some entries that, while not strictly Ottawa history, provide necessary context to our journey.
As this history had to finish somewhere, I chose the passage of Bill C-16 in June 19, 2017 as a fitting end date.
Rupert Raj attempts to place an ad in the Ottawa Journal to attract members for a trans support group. The advertisement is refused, however, as the Journal believed it to be for sexual recruitment. Raj was born in Ottawa in 1952, the child of an East Indian father and a Polish mother. He began his transition in 1971 after securing a prescription for testosterone from the Harry Benjamin Foundation’s endocrinologist. (His parents having died in a car accident in 1968, his older brother needed under New York law to provide consent.)
Raj had left Ottawa by the time he founded the Association for Canadian Transsexuals (A.C.T) and in 1978 the Foundation for the Advancement of Canadian Transsexuals (F.A.C.T.), which initially was a lobbying and educational organization for transsexuals. (See main entry for FACT below). In 1983, Raj founded the Metamorphosis Medical Research Foundation (MMRF) and edited Metamorphosis Magazine and Metamorphosis Newsletter. He continued his trans activism in Toronto, cofounding in 1999 a peer-support group for transmen and female-to-males (part of the Meal-Trans Program at the 519 Community Centre), as well as a support group for transpeople who use or have used alcohol and/or drugs.
Rupert Raj has a Bachelors in Psychology (Carleton University, 1975), and a Masters in Counseling Psychology (Adler School of Professional Psychology, 2001) and worked at the Sherbourne Health Centre as an LGBT Mental Health Counsellor. He also had a private practice, RR Consulting. Currently believed to be out of the country.
A branch of the Metropolitan Community Church (MCC) founded in Ottawa. The MCC offered counselling and spiritual services to the gay community and regularly advertised their services, events and phone number in the Personals section of the Ottawa Citizen and Ottawa Journal. Their phone line gave trans people an opportunity to connect with others. (See May 1980.)
The Metropolitan Community Church was founded by Reverend Troy Perry in Los Angeles in 1968. Soon there were congregations all over North America, including six in Canada: Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver, Ottawa, Toronto, and Montreal.
Foundation for the Advancement of Canadian Transsexuals – Ottawa (FACT Ottawa) founded as a branch of the original FACT, which in 1979 was headquartered in Toronto. (See entry on Rupert Raj.) Although initially an educational and lobby group for transsexuals, at some point the Ottawa FACT group evolved into a support group for transsexuals. It is unclear how closely the Ottawa branch of FACT was aligned with the original organization, particularly as from 1980 the original came under the contentious leadership of Susan Huxford. Huxford changed the name to the Federation of American and Canadian Transsexuals (although the acronym remained the same) and ran the organization in an authoritarian fashion. Although FACT collapsed and then re-organized without Huxford in 1986, it appears by then the Ottawa group had been acting independently for some time. In later years FACT Ottawa was undeniably independent, as it added another T and renamed itself Friendship and Assistance for Canadian Transsexuals and Transvestites, although its primary purpose continued to be assisting transsexuals. I have not been able to determine when FACTT Ottawa ceased to be a working group, but it was still operating as late as 1995.
October 25, 1979
The following ad appeared in the Personals section of the Ottawa Citizen:
Transvestism. Local group has formed to serve interests to transvestites. New members sought. Get involved. Come as you are or in drag to a Halloween party at Coral Reef Disco, 30 Nicholas. Saturday, October 27th. 8 PM $2.00 admission. Confidentiality assured.
I was moving that weekend and didn’t go, and so have no further information on who was behind this group and what happened to it. (For more on the Coral Reef see June 16, 2001.)
May 3, 1980
The first meeting of the Unigenderist Society for Androgyny was a party held in Danielle’s basement apartment at the Athlone, 232 Maclaren Street.
The unigenderist society for androgyny was the brainchild of Sonia Stevens (Robert K.). The fledgling group was composed largely of a few trans people who had got Sonia’s phone number after she had placed it with the Metropolitan Community Church. (See 1975.) In April of 1980 Sonia was living in a now demolished brick walkup on Laurier Avenue opposite the main branch of the Ottawa Public Library. Enough trans people were using it as a drop in to warrant Sonia placing an ad in the Ottawa Citizen to see if there were more of us out there. Sonia ran this advertisement for several weeks beginning April 11, 1980:
The unigenderist society for androgyny works to advance the lifestyle, interests and unity of transgendered persons everywhere through the creation of a unigenderist counter cultural alternative. Telephone 233-5505
Most of the trans people I knew at the time wondered what a “unigenderist society for androgyny” was, but the ad garnered sufficient attention to convince us a little party would be successful. We were probably a little naive also. Sonia passed my number on to many callers, and more than a few called repeatedly to ask in very punctilious detail what I was wearing. I realized after a while they were not much interested in advancing the cause.
It was at Danielle’s that I met Rachel S. and Laura P., both of whom I’d take with me to the first meeting of New Ottawa Women. (See May 1988.) I also met there for the first time Micheline J., a transwoman who was legendary for her courage in going wherever she pleased. The first and only meeting of the unigenderist society for androgyny concluded with dancing at the Coral Reef (See June 16, 2001.). Unfortunately, what seemed like the beginning of something good, fizzled away gradually thereafter.
Pink Triangle Services (PTS) created as non-profit organization with charitable status. The organizaton started after directors from the Board of Gays of Ottawa determined that such an organization would be better able to raise funds to provide services for gay, lesbian and bisexual people. The division allowed Gays of Ottawa to continue their political advocacy while PTS provided social and health services to the community. The incorporation was a first for a gay and lesbian organization in Canada.
Services for trans people evolved over the years as Gays of Ottawa (GO) became ALGBO (Association of Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals of Ottawa) and finally ALTGBO. The trans groups operating within PTS were Trans Youth, Genderfukt and GenderQuest. The latter continues to this date under PTS successor Kind. (See October 2015.)
Wednesday, May 4, 1988
First meeting of New Ottawa Women, the future Gender Mosaic. There were six people present: Judy Kearns, founder and de facto president, Tara Sypniewski (Teddy, at the time), Laura P., Rachel S., Jenny G. and Pat, who was originally from BC. New Ottawa Women was a “sorority” of the Society for the Second Self, a California organization of heterosexual crossdressers. While New Ottawa Women used the services of Tri-Ess to attract members, from the beginning the group never followed their rules. The next meeting a member attended who identified as transsexual and several meetings later we had a FTM member.
Consequently, New Ottawa Women was not universally beloved as a name for the group. From the newsletter Notes from the Underground, no. 3, 1989: “There was one other item of business at our first meeting of year two, and that concerned a recurring disagreement over the name of our organization. There are some (myself included, I must admit) who don’t particularly like the name and feel it doesn’t reflect who we are.”
This controversy spread beyond our walls also, as we received a letter from a local feminist group objecting to the name, ostensibly because our social group had the same acronym as the US organization the National Organization for Women. It was not hard to read between the lines and realize their gripe was with transwomen representing themselves as women. Second wave feminism was not trans friendly. However, some members were sensitive to their concerns regarding the name. As Niki Avon wrote in the v. 2 no.1 1990 issue of Notes from the Underground, “…I find it insulting to women. It’s like telling them they can’t even be women and do it right, so we’ll show them.”
Incidentally, as it was modelled after sororities, the Society for the Second Self issued sorority names for each group. New Ottawa Women, in their books, was Nu Omicron Phi. Tri-Ess did a lot for heterosexual crossdressers, but they were very much of their time, and that time already seemed dated when Gender Mosaic started in 1988.
These are the presidents of Gender Mosaic:
Judy Kearns 1988 to 1990
Tara Sypniewski 1990 to 1992
Joanne Law 1992 to 1995
Ronda P. 1995 to 1997
Joanne Law 1997 to 2000
Margo Ross 2000 to 2002
Jan Hobbs 2002 to 2003
Zelda Marshall 2003 to 2004
Lauren Mulvihil 2004
Amanda Ryan 2005 to 2007
Elizabeth Tyler 2008
Kelly Anne Stanley 2008 to 2010
Sophia D’Aoust 2011 to 2014
Janne Charbonneau 2014 to 2016
Amanda Ryan 2016 to 2017
Sophia D’Aoust 2017-
The first issue of the New Ottawa Women and later Gender Mosaic newsletter Notes from the Underground (NFTU) is published. From my journal, November 1, 1988: “We had about 11 people show up that night and there’s little doubt we seem to be picking up steam as a group… Judy is pushing me to write the newsletter and I’m beginning to think I will….”
I pilfered the title from the Dostoyevsky novel of the same name, which I expounded on in issue 2, 1989. “There have been some suggestions – probably true – that Notes from the Underground implies we’re running a subversive organization here. Disregarding the fact that for many we are a subversive organization, I will say I chose it more for the secrecy which surrounds transvestism and which keeps the average crossdresser employed in clandestine activities that would do the CIA proud.” I did not mention that I attempted to replicate in the Notes from the Underground banner on the title page the revolutionary feel of the Solidarity banner, which at the time represented the movement to overthrow communist rule in Poland. I wasn’t very successful with that design, however, and eventually replaced it with a new title page for v. 3 no. 2, 1991.
The stated purpose of NFTU was: “1. Serve as a public record of the group’s activities. 2. Promote a sense of the individual’s contribution to the group. 3. Communicate goals and help people get there. 4. Show where money comes from and where it goes to. This has been simple so far since we have no money. 5. Create a positive image (with no sugar coating.)”
The editors of NFTU were:
Tara Sypniewski, no. 1, Winter 1988/89 to v. 4, no. 6 November/December 1992
Belinda Doree, v. 5 no. 1, Spring 1993 to v. 6 no. 1 Spring 1994
Leigh v. 6 no. 2 August 1994
Karen P. v. 8 no. 1 March 1995 to v. 8 no. 3 July 1995 (It’s not clear why the numbering jumped from v. 6 to v. 8).
Michelle Renee no. 1, 1997 to no. 4, 1998
Margo Ross no.1, 1999 to no. 2, 2004
All the editors left their own marks upon NFTU, emphasizing what they felt was necessary. In rereading back issues for this history, I find they created a good record of the evolution of not just Gender Mosaic, but the trans movement in general.
Notes from the Underground eventually succumbed to the digital age and ceased publication with no. 2, 2004.
September 2, 1989
The first Gender Mosaic dinner at a restaurant was held at Rosie Lee’s, a restaurant in the basement of an apartment building on Laurier Avenue. A small but significant step toward trans visibility at the time, restaurant dinners became regular Gender Mosaic events under Joanne Law. Since 2008 they have been organized by Zelda Marshall.
December 2, 1989
Gender Mosaic’s first Christmas dinner, also held at Rosie Lee’s on Laurier Avenue. About 16 people attended, including some members from FACT Ottawa. The Christmas dinner has evolved into one of Gender Mosaic’s large annual events.
September 29, 1990
First of Joanne Law’s Mont Cascades BBQs in Cantley, Quebec. The barbecue grew from being a simple Gender Mosaic gathering to an incomparable networking event that, by its last year in the autumn of 1993, attracted trans people from across Ontario and Quebec.
Gender Mosaic gets its first phone line. The phone was in Tara Sypniewski’s house, but had a call forward feature that allowed other GM members to share the load. Having a phone led us to advertise in the Ottawa Citizen. The following ad appeared in the Personals section March 9, 1991:
Gender Mosaic is a social support group for transvestites, transsexuals and significant others. Peer counselling, referrals. 749-5203. Information write: PO Box 7421, Vanier K1L 8E4
My journal entry of March 11, 1991 indicated we had a “strong” response to the ad. However, this fell off drastically after a few days. The minutes of the next executive meeting reported the totals included 10 calls, 3 letters, several hang ups, and 4 calls from people looking for partners.
The phone line eventually moved to Joanne Law’s home, where it remained until 2005. In 2000 GM added a cell phone to increase its ability to respond to inquiries and new members.
May 4, 1991
The first joint meeting of Gender Mosaic and Monarch Social Club (Toronto) held outside of Perth at Sandy’s and Karen’s “peaceful retreat in the pines”. This was a day long and overnight affair, more a party than a meeting, and very well attended, as the photo will attest.
The first pamphlet issued by Gender Mosaic goes to the printer. One thousand copies were printed and made available for wide distribution. Most of the work was done by Sharon McGonegal.
Crossdressers Survival Guide printed. This project listed trans friendly businesses and other resources and was mostly compiled by Belinda Doree. Much appreciated in the pre-internet age, the initial Ottawa-only project grew to include trans groups across Canada who were responsible for collecting information for their respective cities.
The first of a semi-regular “Girls’ Night Out” held at the Centretown Pub, a longstanding gay bar on Somerset Street. These were fun nights for trans people and their supporters as well as being GM fundraisers. The last one was held February 1996. Girls’ Night Out was organized by Diana Coltridge.
Natalie B. designs the Gender Mosaic key logo. The key represents the opening of the closet. The handle or G portion looks like the embryo in the womb. What we are is determined at birth. The handle lines swirl until it reaches the shaft of the key. Life is full of twists and turns, always in motion and carrying us in its wake. The shaft represents the straight and narrow road we follow when we take control of our life. The key end is in the form of a heart (and of course an M.) It unlocks the mysteries that lie ahead and our passion, leaving us in control of our lives and allowing us to open any door that confronts us along our paths.
The GM logo has been visible at most Gender Mosaic events. It has become part of the GM “brand” and has been displayed inventively on assorted objects.
November 20, 1993
Ottawa and Nepean Police representatives Darryl Upshaw and Jerry Doucette meet with Gender Mosaic members to discuss issues related to the trans community and police policies. This meeting had been proposed for some time, but had finally come to fruition through Linda S.’s diligence. One of the key findings was that the Ottawa Police really had no policy on trans people using the bathroom of their true gender. The larger issue, however, was that the Ottawa and Nepean Police gained a better understanding of trans issues and were now fully aware of Gender Mosaic.
Sue McGarvey interviews Joanne Law for her radio show Sex with Sue on CJSB Ottawa (54 Rock). The taped interview aired February 27th.
Joanne Law appears on CHRO News discussing trans issues with journalist Kimothy Walker (March 8th).
Gender Mosaic expands its liaison with the Ottawa Police Department, engaging with the Bias Crimes Unit and joining the Ottawa Carleton Police Liaison Committee.
July 2, 1994
The first of Gender Mosaic’s Casino Nights, organized by Natalie B.
July 17, 1994
Joanne Law and Diana Coltridge walk in the Ottawa Pride Parade under the Gender Mosaic banner, a first.
Updated brochure printed and released. Pamphlet was designed and written by Sharon McGonegal.
Gender Mosaic Bylaws Committee formed to address issues of conduct at Gender Mosaic business meetings and in preparation for possible future incorporation of Gender Mosaic.
Committee members were Sophy T., Gail E., Tara Sypniewski, Karen P. and Linda S.
TransRight founded by Karen P. TransRight was dedicated to acquiring, through the Freedom of Information and Privacy Act, information on laws, programs and policies affecting the lives of transsexual men and women. Most ministries at the time lumped transsexual rights under directives protecting people on the basis of gender and sexual orientation.
May 15, 1995
Gender Mosaic Constitution and Bylaws passed at the GM business meeting held at the Association of Gays, Lesbians and Bisexuals of Ottawa (ALGBO) Community Centre.
June 21, 1995
After what the Ottawa Citizen described as “a soul searching debate that drove two councillors to tears”, Ottawa City Council voted 6 to 4 to reject specifying Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender in the city’s Pride Proclamation in favour of the vague term Pride Week. Council also scrapped a preamble that referred to gay men, lesbians, bisexuals, transsexuals and transvestites. It was replaced by a brief reference to “gay, lesbian, and alternative lifestyles”.
Councillor Alan Higdon who voted against the proposal said, “These proclamations aren’t particularly helpful.” Richard Cannings changed his mind about the proposal after partially educating himself, but couldn’t bring himself to include transvestites, whom he called “deviant”.
Councillors Elisabeth Arnold and Stephane Emard-Chabot argued passionately in favour.
The Ottawa Sun in a hyperbolic editorial the following day heaped scorn on the proposal. Under the incredulous title “What next”, the editorial board suggested the pedophile group Men-Loving-Boys would be added to the growing Pride Week title.
Despite not being included in the official city proclamation, the trans community, in an emphatic statement that said we’re not going away, increased its involvement in Pride Week activities. This was the second year Gender Mosaic participated. Henceforth Pride Week became a major event on the trans and GM calendar.
July 19, 1995
And someone noticed we were there: Ottawa Xpress: The Capital’s newsweekly features the trans community in its cover story. Titled “Out and about: Ottawa’s trans community comes out of a darker closet” and with a photo of Diana Coltridge on the cover, the main story explored the misrepresentations and misunderstandings the trans community faced and highlighted the stories of three women from the community: Caroline S. Connelly, Diana Coltridge and Joanne Law. There was also a handy sidebar of definitions for the uninitiated and a brief summary of opposing positions within the gay and lesbian community on whether trans people should be included.
June 24, 1996
After failing in its efforts to include bisexuals and transgendered people in Ottawa’s 1995 Pride Proclamation, in 1996 the Pride Week Committee approached 115 municipal and regional officials in the Ottawa-Carleton and Hull areas individually to lend their signatures to the Committee’s Proclamation. Only 11 signed.
First Gender Mosaic web site is launched. Michelle Renee becomes GM’s first “web mistress”
Carleton University Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Centre adds Transgender and becomes the Carleton University GLBT Centre. University of Ottawa added the T in the fall of 1997.
May 21, 1997
Ottawa City Council votes 8 to 2 to add bisexual and transgender to the Pride Week proclamation, making July 12 to 20, 1997 the first Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Week in Ottawa. The two dissenters were the ever inflexible Allan Higdon who commented that it was “not our business to affirm or deny a certain sexuality” and Brian MacKey who said, “As a community, as a city, we should not be involved in sexual proclamations.” Similarly, an Ottawa Citizen editorial avoided comment about the actual proposal and complained instead that the city should end all proclamations.
However, the Citizen also reported that Councillor Elisabeth Arnold, who supported the proclamation, said that it was in fact the word transgender that “tended to give people the most discomfort.”
October 3-13, 1997
Trans women welcomed into lesbian community with two Gender Mosaic volunteers at an information table at McNabb Community Centre during Lesbian Week.
October 15-17, 1997
Joanne Law successfully “crashes” Canadian Labour Congress Conference for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual Trade Unionists and their Allies. Joanne’s impromptu speech about transgender workers being discriminated against, just as gays and lesbians had been, garnered a standing ovation and earned her an honorarium to attend the rest of the conference legitimately.
November 22, 1997
Joanne Law receives the Spirit Award from ALGBO. The Spirit Award was in recognition of the work Joanne did with various police committees and in her activism in bringing transgender issues to the fore, including her contribution in promoting the successful addition of transgender people to the city’s Pride Week proclamation.
Ottawa TS Discussion Group formed by Lynn L. to support transsexuals in eastern Ontario and western Quebec. There were three people present at the first meeting, which was held in Lynn’s living room. The group eventually moved to Margo Ross’s apartment and when Margo gave up her apartment, eventually moved to Gwen O’s. In early 1999 the Ottawa TS Discussion Group was headed by Petra C. and then by Gwen O. in September 1999. The group met the third Sunday of every month, and was active as late as 2005.
Joanne Law delivers a speech at the International Foundation for Gender Education (IFGE) Convention in Toronto. Five Gender Mosaic members made the trip to the conference.
Several members of Gender Mosaic start attending PFLAG Ottawa (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays – Ottawa) meetings to help support parents of trans people.
Tara Sypniewski attended a PFLAG meeting on December 15, 1999 after being on Joanne Law’s radio show. Here’s her journal entry describing the visit: “Because Joanne had picked me up and I had neglected to ask whether she was going anywhere afterwards, I discovered I’d be attending the PFLAG dinner. They have pot luck dinners every second Wednesday (I believe) at St. John’s Church at the corner of Somerset and Elgin. What a bunch of nice people! I had a lovely time. The entire evening was so normal and stress free that I couldn’t help thinking how far we trans people had come.”
May 9, 1998
Gender Mosaic celebrates its 10th anniversary with a bash at the Super 8 Hotel, situated at the corner of Metcalfe and Isabella Streets. There were some short speeches and a media room for any that would show, but the evening was mostly dinner, music, and dancing. Gender Mosaic flag unveiled for the first time.
May 14, 1998
Capital City, a short lived competitor to the Ottawa entertainment weekly Ottawa XPress, covers Gender Mosaic’s 10th anniversary celebration. The story notes the participation of the Ottawa Police in the event and the trans community’s involvement with the Ottawa Police Liaison Committee.
June 7, 1998
ALGBO votes to include transgender people in their name and mission. ALGBO was one of the oldest queer organizations in North America, evolving from Gays of Ottawa, which formed in 1971. The new name became ALTGBO, the Association of Lesbians, Transgenders, Gays and Bisexuals of Ottawa. Joanne Law was the first transgender person on the executive, acting as Vice President.
June 13, 1998
Canadian Task Force for Transgender Law Reform (CTFLR) created. The purpose of the CTFTLR was to use legislative reform or any other appropriate jurisdictional or regulatory means to facilitate the acceptance of transgendered people in Canadian society, to safeguard their basic rights and freedoms and to define and protect their particular needs. The group’s initial focus was to lobby the Canadian and provincial human rights organizations to include transgender rights into existing legislation.
A draft policy was completed by the end of June and members met with the Ontario Human Rights Commission in August 1998. The CTFTLR also circulated the policy across Canada seeking input from the trans community. Unfortunately, less than a dozen people responded. Sometimes the trans community is its own worst enemy. The group faded away in early 1999, as key members dealt with other life priorities.
The founding members of the Task Force were Michelle Renee, Lynn L. and Christina.
June 26, 1998
Capital Xtra, the local gay, lesbian and bi newspaper, asks “Are gay community groups obliged to embrace transgender issues?” The debate was framed as one of “‘being inclusive’ versus over extending the ‘services umbrella'” and “Related oppressions often demand separate approaches”. However, it was hard not to sense an element of tribalism underneath the arguments. This debate was hardly limited to the gay community, as for years many in the trans community were also not enthusiastic about such an alliance. (Joanne Law was often criticized while president of Gender Mosaic for taking the organization beyond its original mandate with her GLB outreach.) The claim made by
members from both the gay and trans communities was that the respective communities had different goals and little in common. Not said, and no doubt true, was that many members of both communities were simply not comfortable with each other.
By 1998, however, this debate may have become moot, as many LGB Centres had already incorporated the T. In 1999, in a survey done within Gender Mosaic, 11 members were in favour of GM’s involvement with groups and activities like PFLAG, Pride, Lesbian Week, and others while only 4 opposed.
Ontario Female to Male Network (ONFTM) formed by Jodan D. Jodan travelled to British Columbia in June 1998 to meet with the BC Female to Male Network and seeing the positive impact that helpful and sharing contacts could make, started a similar group for Ontario. Although based in Ottawa, the network had associates in Guelph, Kingston and Toronto. It was primarily a support and information sharing network. Meetings were held monthly. The last event I have recorded for the ONFTM Network was a day of workshops and discussions held at Ottawa City Hall (then Regional Municipality of Ottawa-Carleton Headquarters) on November 20, 1999.
Gender Mosaic is the featured organization in the Canadian News section of issue no. 84 of Transgender Tapestry (Fall 1998). The article was written by GM’s Christina C. Transgender Tapestry was published by the International Foundation for Gender Education (IFGE).
First issue of Triple Echo published. Triple Echo was a ‘zine edited and published by Tara Sypniewski (as Teddy Michaels). It consisted mostly of trans histories, book reviews and stories on trans activists. Triple Echo ceased publishing in 2003.
Joanne Law inherits Sylvia Martin’s Voices Out of the Closet radio program on CKCU. Renamed Joanne’s Closet, it ran every Wednesday from 6-6:30 pm until December 11, 2002.
Joanne Law receives the Trinity Award from the International Foundation for Gender Education (IFGE) at its convention in Louisville, Kentucky March 17 to 21, 1999. The Trinity Award was presented to people who made a significant lifetime contribution to the trans community.
Support group Gender Metaphor reborn in Ottawa. The group was founded in Kingston years earlier by Michelle Renee, Lynette Davidson, and Sylvia Durand (known famously as the Kingston Trio). There were about 13 members from the Kingston area and one from Toronto. Gender Metaphor was active in Kingston for about three years until Michelle moved to Ottawa and Sylvia shortly thereafter.
Gender Metaphor was reformed in Ottawa by Michelle Renee with the sole intent of supporting married couples. There were two meetings per month, one was for husbands and wives together so the husband could come dressed. Wives got to know wives and eventually there were wives group meetings. The other monthly meeting was just for male members and involved dinner at a different restaurant every month.
Eventually Michelle became increasingly busy with her career and no longer had the time to continue as before. Membership dropped off over time and a few notable members moved to Gender Mosaic around 2003. These notables were Amanda Ryan, Samantha P., Tanya Cross and Sophia D’Aoust.
Joanne Law and Petra Cummings publish a pamphlet based upon the classic “I think I might be gay” series. Entitled “I think I might be a transvestite or transsexual: now what do I do?” it is distributed to community and health centres across Ottawa.
Joanne Law elected as second vice president of Pride Ottawa-Hull, the first trans person to be elected to the Board of Directors.
Aylmer resident Sylvia Durand identified as the “only soldier in the world to undergo a sex-change operation while serving in the military.” The operation was approved by Defence Minister Art Eggleton and generated controversy within military ranks, with some arguing it should have been performed outside of the military. The Reform Party said National Defence had no business paying for sex affirmation surgery while other soldiers couldn’t get proper medical attention. Ms. Durand said her colleagues not only accepted her transformation, but that she suffered no ridicule or discrimination on the job.
June 19, 2000
In one of the largest public displays of trans participation in Ottawa at the time, trans people, their partners, family and friends jam the Ottawa Police Liaison meeting to support a presentation to the Board on transgender issues.
EGALE, which had been an acronym for Equality for Gays and Lesbians Everywhere, changes its name to Egale Canada to better reflect its mandate to include bisexuals and trans people. The mission of Egale is to improve the lives of LGBTQ people in Canada by informing public policy, inspiring cultural change, and promoting human rights and inclusion through research, education and community engagement. At the time the change was made, Gender Mosaic president Margo Ross was on the Egale Board.
June 16, 2001
The Coral Reef Club, the oldest club for Ottawa’s gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender communities, closes its doors for the last time. The bar opened in 1962 as a Caribbean club, but had lesbian and gay nights Monday to Wednesday. By 1968, however, the Caribbean clientele had drifted away and it became a gay and lesbian bar entirely. It’s hard to underestimate the value of the Coral Reef for the trans community. In the 70s and 80s when trans people moved largely in the shadows and many gay bars did not especially welcome us, the Coral Reef was a safe haven and a place to let your hair down a little.
The Coral Reef was located underneath a now demolished parking garage at the corner of Nicholas and Besserer Streets. Its location afforded the trans person the greatest discretion. It was downtown, yet a little away from the action and you could park your car in the garage and slip to the club downstairs without notice. For many people, the Reef was a gateway to a new lifestyle.
Over the years some of the more popular events were the extravagant drag shows featuring such legendary performers as Peaches Latour. The Coral Reef also hosted fundraisers in aid of various LGBT causes and for the community’s political and social organizations.
Changing social patterns in the 90s were probably responsible for the Reef’s demise. I suspect the out and proud LGBT community no longer wanted to congregate underneath a parking garage when new and exciting gay clubs became available. Whatever the reason, after 33 years the Coral Reef closed its doors with one last fantastic drag show on June 16, 2001. It featured Brenda Starr and a host of other performers from bygone days, including Deedee Dancer. A fitting end to a stalwart of the LGBT community.
Joanne Law is named one of the Ottawa Pride Parade Marshals, a first for the trans community. She shared the position with three others. Joanne was sole Pride Parade Marshal in 2009. Other Parade Marshals from the trans community were Zelda Marshall in 2011, Amanda Ryan in 2013 (named Lifetime Achievement Marshal; see August 2013) and Charlie Lowthian-Rickert in 2016, who was just 10 years old at the time. (See August 2016.)
Gender Mosaic pushes to have the City of Ottawa include transgender people in the city’s non-discriminatory codes. GM members Margo Ross, Joanne Law and Lynn L. meet with Ottawa councillor Alex Munter to discuss what approach to take. Invited by GM president Jan Hobbs to the GM pot luck social, Munter announced that he would lobby to have gender identity added to the city’s non-discriminatory codes. The City of Ottawa’s Equity and Diversity Policy was adopted November 13, 2002 and prohibits discrimination against trans people.
Gender Mosaic members commit to providing Christmas gifts to 25 children in Lanark/Perth County. This was part of a program run by the Ontario Provincial Police called the Angel Tree and was coordinated on the GM side by Jan Hobbs. Jan also organized the donation in 2003. Gifts for children at Christmas were a regular component of GM Christmas events.
February 22-23, 2003
The Working Group on Transgender Issues of the National Association of Women and the Law (NAWL) invited activists, academics and representatives from equality-seeking groups and organizations to a consultation on transgender and women’s substantive equality rights.
The consultation was intended to lay a foundation for the development of feminist and egalitarian approaches to law reform, litigation, and social policy on transgender rights that would respect and promote the substantive equality rights of all women. Ottawa participants included Cynthia Cousens, Sylvia Durand, Joanne Law, Lynn l., Matt L., Melanie P., Margo Ross and Gender Mosaic president Jan Hobbs.
May 10, 2003
Gender Mosaic celebrates its 15th anniversary. The event was held at Arts Court, 2 Daly Avenue. There was a buffet, music, and displays, but overall it was less a party and more a serious affair than the 10th anniversary. There seemed to be as many people there from outside the trans community as there were in, and the room we were in (the former library) was long, narrow, and grey, but to judge by comments afterwards everyone seemed to have had a good time.
June 9, 2003
Ottawa consultation for the Trans Health Project held at Lynn L’s house. Over 20 participants attended the focus group to provide their input.
The Trans Health Project was sponsored by a workgroup of the Ontario Public Health Association (OPHA): The Public Health Alliance for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transsexual, Transgendered, Two-Spirit, Queer and Questioning Equity. It originated from an OPHA workgroup position paper on health care for gays and lesbians that identified a need to investigate access to health care for transpeople in Ontario. The principal Investigators were Rupert Raj and Susan Gapka.
November 4, 2003
A number of local trans persons, including Amanda Ryan, Linda S., Kay, Samantha P., Shannon B., Jan Hobbs, Margo Ross, Zelda Marshall, Joanne Law, Melanie P., and Matt L. meet with Svend Robinson regarding adding trans people to Bill C-250. Bill C-250 was Robinson’s private member’s bill to add penalties for publicly inciting hatred against or encouraging the genocide of people on the basis of sexual orientation. The bill was not passed by the Senate before the end of the session, but was again reintroduced in the 37th Parliament, 3rd Session. It passed both the House and Senate. Royal Assent was granted on April 29, 2004. Despite efforts by GM members, transgender people were not included in the bill.
Robinson indicated a willingness and desire to introduce amendments to the Canadian Human Rights Act and to the Criminal Code’s hate propaganda provisions in a subsequent bill. Part of the discussion was on how best to proceed with this initiative. Robinson felt that an independent, national trans organization would be beneficial. However, Gilles Marchildon of Egale Canada, several of whose members were also present, stated Egale’s willingness to assist in pursuing trans issues in consultation with, and the wide participation of, the trans community. Egale extended an invitation to trans people to participate in its upcoming Trans Issues Committee. (See December 3, 2003.)
November 20, 2003
The first vigil held in Ottawa at the Human Rights Monument on Elgin Street to commemorate the Transgender Day of Remembrance. There were about 50 people in attendance. Besides various trans folks, there were members from Pink Triangle Services, Pflag, Egale, and the Ottawa Police Service, as well as local union representatives present. Vigil was organized by Melanie P.
December 9, 2003
First Trans Issues Committee held at the Egale office in Ottawa . Besides local participants, the meeting involved a national conference call to several communities across Canada. The list of participants were as follows. Gilles Executive Director of Egale, Chris, Lynn L., Joanne Law, Margo Ross, Melanie P. and Cory from Ottawa; Tami from Vancouver; Micky from Edmonton; Steven from Calgary; Susan and Laurie from Toronto and Martine who had to leave early from the dialogue. Facilitated by Susan Gapka.
The purpose of the Committee was to help Egale determine what actions they should undertake and what resources they should allocate to trans issues, particularly in pursuit of legislative changes.
Amanda Ryan begins Q, an annual BBQ for trans folks at her cottage on the wonderfully named Skootamatta Lake, near Cloyne, Ontario.
Ottawa FTM was a group for female to male transsexuals, transgender, and two-spirited individuals, or anyone else who was born female but did not wholly identify as such. Breakfast or brunch meetings took place once a month. The group was still active in 2009, but a steady decline seemed to have spelled the end in 2013.
MP Bill Siksay introduces a bill to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act to prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity and gender expression. Siksay was constituency assistant to Svend Robinson for over 18 years and succeeded Robinson, representing the riding of Burnaby-Douglas for the NDP. When an election was called, he was obliged to reintroduce the bill in the next parliament in 2006. See also Bill C-389, May 2009.
October 18, 2005
Joanne Law is honoured with the Pioneer Award in Provincetown, Massachusetts by Real Life Experiences, the parent organization of Fantasia Fair. The Pioneer Award was presented to transgender leaders who made sacrifices to “change the world so transgendered people could begin to come together in safety and comfort.”
Sophia D’Aoust and Amanda Ryan found Kingston Spring Fling. The goal was to unite Gender Mosaic, Xpressions and other groups together with a program of dinners, dances, speakers, and special events. Later renamed Gal’s Spring Fling, the event is ongoing in Gananoque, Ontario.
May 24, 2006
Amanda Ryan, Joanne Law and therapist Helma Seidl appear on Rogers Cable 22 TV program Talk Ottawa with host Jenn Gearey. The hour long show was mostly discussion about the “transgender lifestyle” with a viewer call in portion toward the end.
August 24, 2006
Ottawa Transforum was an on-line discussion group serving the transsexual and transgendered community and SOFFAs (Significant Others, Family, Friends & Allies). Activity peaked in 2009, but the group was still nominally online until 2013.
Christine Schulz receives news that she has been selected as a recruit for the Ottawa Police Service. At the time, she was one of only two transwomen recruits in Canada. Schulz prepared extensively for her dream job without knowing she’d be accepted, but was encouraged by deputy police chief at the time Larry Hill to apply. After she was hired, Schulz attended a 13-week course for new recruits at the Ontario Police College and then completed a probation period before the job was finally hers.
May 10, 2008
Gender Mosaic celebrates its 20th anniversary. The event was held at Jean Pigott Hall at Ottawa City Hall, which was essentially a space curtained off from the main first floor hall. Tara Sypniewski wrote in her journal, “Aside from the echoes, it wasn’t a bad space – certainly better than Arts Court,” (where the 15th anniversary celebrations were held.) There were speeches and GM handed out three plaques that day: to GM founder Judy Kearns, and to Dr. Norman Barwin and therapist Helma Seidl for their continued work with and support for the trans community. Tara thought the affair a little staid, but commented in her journal that the “good thing about events like Gender Mosaic’s 20th anniversary is that you look around at the people there and you think all things are possible.”
Bill Siksay introduces Bill C-389, a private member’s bill succeeding his previous efforts in 2005 and 2006. This bill contained additional provisions to add gender identity and expression to the hate crimes section of the Criminal Code. By June 2010, the bill had proceeded to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. It passed at report stage by a vote of 143-131 on December 8, and passed at third reading by a vote of 143-135, in each case members from all parties voted in favour. However, Bill C-389 was not considered in the Senate before Parliament was dissolved for the 41st Canadian federal election.
Bill C-389 represented the best opportunity to this point for Canadian trans people to be protected by law. Its demise was a huge disappointment for the many trans people who worked and advocated for its passage. Locally this included Joanne Law, Amanda Ryan and Sophia D’Aoust
April 16, 2010
Gender Freedom (GF) founded by Judy Kearns. The mission of GF is to offer a safe, supportive, non-judgmental environment where individuals can feel free to express themselves and pursue personal growth. Gender Freedom seeks to empower members through knowledge and to educate the community. Gender Freedom
November 20, 2010
To commemorate the Trans Day of Remembrance, the Ottawa Police Services came to the trans community through the Ottawa Police Services/GLBT Liaison Committee and asked to do a banner unfurling and flag raising ceremony. This was the first time in Canada that any official organization formally recognized the Trans Day of Remembrance.
The Ottawa Police repeated the flag raising ceremony in November 2011. The Ottawa Paramedics, Ottawa City Hall and Gatineau City Hall also raised the trans flag.
At the Trans Day of remembrance in 2012 Ottawa Police, Ottawa City Hall, Ottawa Paramedics, Ottawa Fire and Ottawa By Law all raised the trans flag. In attendance at these flag raisings were Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson, Deputy Mayor Eli El-Chantiry, Police Chief Charles Bordeleau, Paramedic Chief Anthony DiMonte, Fire Chief John deHogge, By Law Chief Linda Anderson and City Councillors Katherine Hobbs and David Chernushenko.
Following the first flag raising ceremony at Ottawa Police Headquarters in 2010, the Canadian Trans Flag was present in many significant events for the trans community. It was a focal point for a march, organized by Sophia D’Aoust and Amanda Ryan, in November 2010 from Ottawa Police Headquarters to Parliament Hill in support of Bill C-389. It was also prominently displayed at a reception at Queen’s Park in June 2012 following passage of Bill C-33, which added gender identity and gender expression to the Ontario Human Rights Code; and it has been used in Pride Parades in Ottawa, Toronto, Peterborough, Kingston, Brockville, Oshawa and Sudbury.
Ottawa’s Gender Mosaic, Toronto’s Xpressions and the Trans Lobby Group, who were instrumental in promoting Bill 33, have adopted the colours in their banners.
The Canadian Labour Congress publishes Workers in Transition: A Practical Guide About Gender Transition for Union Representatives. The guide was designed for trade union leaders, union staff representatives, local executive and committee members and shop stewards so that they could better protect the rights of trans members and ensure they had the support they needed before, during and after they transitioned.
September 19, 2011
Liberal MP Hedy Fry introduces private member’s bill Bill C-276, an act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code to include gender identity and gender expression. Although Bill C-276 was read in the House of Commons first, it took second place to Randall Garrison’s private member’s bill C-279 in the draw for positions. If C-279 had failed, Fry would have pursued her bill further.
September 21, 2011
NDP MP Randall Garrison introduces private member’s Bill C-279, an Act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code (gender identity). Bill C-279 had an arduous journey through the lower and upper chambers of Parliament and was finally derailed by delays in the Senate and the proposed bathroom amendment by Conservative Senator Donald Plett.
Here is a summary of Bill C-279’s journey through Parliament after its first reading: 2nd reading and referral to Committee June 6, 2012; Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights December 10, 2012; 3rd reading March 20, 2013; First reading in Senate March 21, 2013; 2nd reading in Senate and referral to Committee May 29, 2013; Senate Standing Committee on Human Rights June 11, 2013; Reinstated from previous session October 16, 2013; Senate first reading October 17, 2013; Senate second reading and referral to Committee June 5, 2014; Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, presented with amendments February 26, 2015; Consideration of Committee Reports, 4 sittings from March to June 2015; Last sitting of Parliament June 19, 2015. The bill died on the Senate order paper when the 2015 federal election was called August 2, 2015.
Needless to say, Bill C-279 carried the hopes of all trans folks and there was much disappointment and anger at the delays, amendments and final death of the bill. See also Feb 27, 2015 and April 28, 2015.
February 18, 2012
Sophia D’Aoust, Amanda Ryan, Nicki Ward, and Erin Apsit meet for 75 minutes with Justin Trudeau and Hedy Fry after Trudeau made comments in Parliament supporting Bill C-279. The meeting was to thank Trudeau for his support and to ask for his further support down the road.
With the passing of Bill 33, Ontario added gender identity and gender expression to the list of prohibitions against harassment and discrimination in the Ontario Human Rights Code.
With an amendment to the Vital Statistics Act, Ontario became the first jurisdiction in Canada to allow transgender people to change the gender on their birth certificates without sex-change surgery. The change was prompted by a ruling in April 2012 from the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal.
About 150 people attend Gender Mosaic’s 25th anniversary, the biggest turnout to that point for a GM event. Held at the Travelodge Hotel at the corner of Kirkwood and Carling Avenues, it was an evening of speeches, presentations, dinner and dancing.
Ottawa Police Services were well represented, as police chief Charles Bordeleau was one of the official speakers. Other notable police attendees included Christine Schulz, the first trans officer with the Service, and David Zacharais from Ottawa Police Service Diversity and Race Relations section.
May 15, 2013
Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) collective agreements negotiated that prohibited discrimination on the basis of gender identity and/or gender expression for the National Museum of Science and Technology (now the Canada Science and Technology Museum) and the Canada Council, among others. The Supreme Court of Canada held that parties to a collective agreement may negotiate non-discrimination provisions which differ from those in human rights legislation, where the effect is to provide greater protection for employees under the agreement.
Amanda Ryan named Capital Pride’s Lifetime Achievement Grand Marshal. The honour recognized her persistent efforts in advancing trans equality, particularly in her work in educating and lobbying politicians. Randall Garrison said Amanda “has been such an asset in the fight for equality for transgender and gender variant Canadians and has helped me immensely in fighting for Bill C-279.”
September 6, 2013
First meeting of Trans Outaouais held at Cap Santé Outaouais in Gatineau. Founded by Ève Jutras, Trans Outaouais is an open membership, French language discussion group for trans people from the Outaouais region. Meetings continue to be held Friday evenings at Cap Santé. The coordinators of Trans Outaouais also do outreach in the community.
February 27, 2015
At the Senate committee finally tasked with reviewing Bill C-279, Conservative Senator Donald Plett introduced three amendments. MP Randall Garrison, who introduced the bill back in September 2011, told reporters he didn’t have a problem with two of them, a tactical amendment to make it correspond to other legislation, like C-13, the Tories’ cyberbullying legislation and the removal of a definition for gender identity not included in his original bill, but added by Commons Conservatives to clarify its application before passage.
The third amendment, however, exempts places like prisons, crisis centres, and public washrooms and change rooms from the bill’s provisions. Garrison called that amendment “transphobic.”
The absurd contention behind the amendment was that pedophiles could be protected when they lurked in public bathrooms. Supporters of the bill also claimed abused women would not feel comfortable among transgender individuals who had biologically male characteristics. Many felt the amendment was also a delay tactic that would eventually kill the bill outright.
When the bill moved to the reports stage, where amendments were considered, trans people across the country protested. (See April 2015.)
During the debate over Bill C-279, Amnesty International approached Gender Mosaic to inquire how they could help promote passage of the bill. They initiated a group of Non Government Organizations, Unions and trans groups to form Trans Equality Canada. This group represented millions of Canadians and gave Gender Mosaic greater clout to lobby Senators. The letter sent to Senators with the list of more than 100 members of Trans Equality Canada is at https://www.transequalitycanada.com/supporters
April 28, 2015
Occupotty organizers ask people to bring toilets or a toilet seat to Parliament Hill to protest Conservative Senator Donald Plett’s amendment to Bill C-279 that would essentially prevent transgender people from entering single-sex washrooms, change rooms or abuse shelters under federal jurisdiction. About 75 people attended the protest armed with signs saying “Check Your Potty Privilege” and “Flush Plett’s Amendment”.
Anne Lowthian, one of the organizers of the protest, said Plett’s stance shows “a distinct lack of understanding of the issues facing transgender people in Canada.”
“It’s offensive because it equates sexual deviance or predatory behaviour with gender identity, which is completely illogical,” Lowthian, a mother of a transgender child, told CTV News Channel.
Lowthian said activists had been asking Plett to revoke his amendment, but had not heard from him directly.
Lowthian said the #occupotty movement began with Brae Carnes, a young Victoria, B.C. transgender woman who began taking selfies in men’s washrooms and posting them on social media.
Although Bill C-279 died with the election call of August 2015, it’s long and arduous journey through Parliament had, perhaps, a positive side. It brought trans issues to the foreground and afforded trans folks the opportunity to educate the public.
August 23, 2015
Gender Mosaic introduces its first 53 foot float at the annual Pride Parade. The float was the creation of GM president Sophia D’Aoust. GM followed up with another 53 footer in 2016.
September 8, 2015
Radio station Hot 89.9 announces the New Normal contest. The contest awarded a prize of $40,000 to a local trans person, and though there was no specific restriction on how the money should be spent, the hope was that it would help with their transition.
Although there were some obvious concerns expressed by the trans community that it not be a PR stunt, Hot 89.9 emphasized the point was to encourage dialogue with and raise awareness of the trans community. To their credit, it appears that they largely succeeded.
The winner, announced on October 5th, was Serena Rivard.
Kind Space (or simply Kind) becomes the successor to PTS. Financial problems plagued PTS for years. The organization was finally restructured and and rebranded as Kind Space. The new name was thought to better reflect the diverse queer community that Kind serves, including a greater emphasis on queer people of colour and trans persons.
Trans groups operating within Kind are Queer Trans Youth and GenderQuest (which continues from PTS days). http://kindspace.ca/
October 1, 2015
Venus Envy, a Bank Street sex shop, is fined $260 for selling a chest binder to a youth. The owner was deemed in violation of an Ottawa bylaw that stated no one under the age of 18 was permitted in an establishment where goods, entertainment or services that are “designed to appeal to erotic or sexual appetites or inclinations” are provided. Venus Envy was the only store in Ottawa at the time selling chest binders, a crucial item for transitioning trans youth.
Somerset Coun. Catherine McKenney said it was time to repeal the bylaw, a position supported by Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson. “These products need to be seen as health supports. They can be a critical part of social transitioning,” said McKenney.
December 17, 2015
First meeting of Trans Health Information Ottawa (THIO). THIO was established to provide a platform for trans, Two Spirit, non-binary and gender nonconforming people around Ottawa to discuss and advocate for our health care needs. THIO is a grassroots initiative that was conceived by members of the Ottawa trans and gender diverse community. It is run by volunteers from Ottawa and surrounding counties who have experience with local barriers to health care access. https://www.thiottawa.org/
May 17, 2016
Fulfilling a campaign promise Justin Trudeau made in 2015, Liberal Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould introduces federal legislation that would guarantee legal and human rights protection to transgender people across Canada (Bill C-16). NDP MP Randall Garrison, a longtime advocate for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender community, was also invited by the government to attend the announcement. The NDP made several attempts over the years to introduce similar legislation through various private members’ bills, only to see them die on the order paper or be defeated in the Senate.
May 31, 2016
Joanne Law receives the Ottawa Police Community Service Award for 25 years of service with the Ottawa Police Liaison Committee for the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Trans Communities. Joanne was one of the founding members. She retired from the committee at the end of 2016.
Charlie Lowthian-Rickert chosen to be Grand Marshal in Ottawa’s Pride Parade. Charlie was just 10 years old at the time, but already well known for her advocacy for the rights of trans people. She joined Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould May 17, 2016 on Parliament Hill for the tabling of Bill C-16.
The Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC), the largest federal public sector union, advocates for Bill C-16 with a submission to the Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs. PSAC had been advocating for several years that the federal government formally prohibit discrimination against transgender and transsexual people. Other submissions that encouraged the Senate to pass the bill without amendment came from the Canadian Bar Association and EGALE Canada.
June 19, 2017
Finally! Bill C-16, an Act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code passed by the Canadian Parliament. The bill adds gender identity or expression as a protected ground to the Canadian Human Rights Act, and also to the Criminal Code provisions dealing with hate propaganda, incitement to genocide, and aggravating factors in sentencing. The bill became law June 19, 2017.
Bill C-16 has had a domino effect. As it worked its way through the bureaucracy, each government department has had to examine its policies and make changes, if necessary. The X option on passports is one example, which in turn forced the airlines to adjust their policies to comply with the new regulations.